Terrell Davis carried out the Broncos’ first Lombardi trophy, and visions of helicopters danced in Bronco fans’ heads. Then John Elway walked out with Lombardi number two, a legendary end to a legendary career. Finally, Von Miller handed off the ultimate trophy to the great Peyton Manning, completing the synopsis of Bronco history.
The pomp and circumstance around the pregame was extremely enjoyable, but almost dizzying. Bronco fans were treated to highlights of all three championship wins, while Carolina fans were forced to relive the worst moments in franchise history. And then the game started.
Boy did it start. It started with a pretty solid drive that ended in a Devontae Booker fumble. By the time Broncos Country had time to come down from the celebration high, it was a two score game. The honest reaction from most fans had to be, “Ruh Roh.” But then, it wasn’t.
The moment was not too big for young Trevor Siemian, and despite his mistakes, he played through it all with poise. He dinked, and he dunked, and I mean that in a complimentary way. He took what the Panthers gave him. He let CJ Anderson do what was necessary to win. It was a good first win for the kid.
As far as moments go, it was almost too big for the defense. It was a tough game, and Carolina played well, but the most confusing moment came at the end. 4th and 22, and Chris Harris Jr. plays tight on Kelvin Benjamin? He put himself in a bad spot. It was uncharacteristic of him, and it almost cost the team.
Harris, Jr. was likely one of the best players on the field, but he was the reason your heart was beating out of your chest for the last 1:30 of the game. And the defense was uncharacteristically bad in the first half. The nine minute drive in the second quarter was littered with third down conversions, and left the defense gassed at the end of the half. 176 passing yards on the No Fly Zone? Just not what you would expect, but maybe that was exactly how this game should have gone.
The turnaround came in the second half, and was the propulsion the team needed to shift the momentum. Coming out of the locker room, the defense was back on the field, but not for long. Cam Newton took a beating from the best defense in the league. He was harassed. He looked a little broken.
It was the defense’s biggest contribution. They came up big, and gave the offense a chance to put points on the board. There was a nice screen pass to Anderson, and then he punched it in after the Broncos had converted on 4th and inches. It was CJ’s day, and it was the offensive line’s day.
It could have been Graham Gano’s day, and the truth is that Carolina probably should have walked away with a win. The bad mistakes on the last drive almost cost the Broncos the game. It was ugly. It was scary. It was glorious. It reminded us of the Super Bowl. The pomp and circumstance was back.
So, what did we learn? This year won’t be easy. The offense will struggle, and the defense will struggle. Defending is a lot harder than chasing. Siemian may not be electric. He might even be “meh,” but that might be all this team needs.
It sure feels good to have football back!